Attracting, Cultivating & Retaining Emerging Car Wash Talent
by Lanese Barnett
Hiring and training solutions to encourage a growth mindset in your staff to build a stronger, more scalable workforce.
I have always been a clean freak. Since proudly driving my first white Ford Mustang, my car was no exception. Despite a clean proclivity, I still recall my bewildered reaction when I first heard “car wash” regarding my burgeoning career as a college graduate turned agency publicist. I audibly scoffed. And I’m not alone. If you didn’t grow up in the industry or have exposure to the depth and breadth of career opportunities in the car wash space, you may have had the same reaction I did. Thirteen years later, suffice it to say, I think differently.
As the car wash sector continues to gain private equity interest and significant financial investment, we are seeing an increasing awareness of the industry as a viable and lucrative career, attracting more top talent to the space. That said, on a local level, many operators are still on the search for entry-level employees to train and raise up into leadership positions.
I recently chatted with a colleague who owns and operates a car wash chain in the Chicagoland market, Driven Car Wash, where he talked about their shift in hiring practices to attract qualified candidates new to the industry while also fostering a growth mindset to encourage continued employee advancement opportunities. As they scale the brand, cultivating a promote-within program is paying off.
Here’s what Director of Talent and Training Leo Martinez at Driven Car Wash shared, “We learned about an internship program designed to expose high school kids to different jobs to help them figure out what they may want to pursue vocationally. It’s sponsored by our local school district, and though unpaid, it offers college credits. For our expanding company, hiring is a constant need. We enrolled in the program, and a light bulb went off. We realized we needed to put more emphasis on educating our potential pool of employees as well as existing about the amazing career opportunities our company and the car wash space have to offer.”
Martinez went on talk about how the company continues to develop and evolve its comprehensive employee training and empowerment strategy.
An important part of the interview process is intentionally highlighting and setting the tone that the company values and seeks to provide continued career advancement opportunities for employees. Following a multi-pronged hiring protocol takes time but is an investment well worth it.
For Customer Service Attendants (CSA’s), the company uses a three-step interview process.
- Phone screen by the Director of Talent and Training to share more about the role, the company culture, values, and standards and convey encouragement of internal growth. Inquire about the candidate’s career interests and long-term goals.
- Connect with the Director of Operations to discuss aptitude for the technical skills and day-to-day requirements of the role.
- In-person interview with the Site Level Manager for the final hiring decision. If approved, the Director of Talent and Training sends an offer letter to the candidate.
After getting promising new employees in the door, training begins. Luckily today, there are more easy-to-use resources available to store, manage, and monitor the progress of training materials. For example, Driven Car Wash uses an online platform to house training materials, including educational videos, quizzes, company guidelines, and policies as well operational checklists, incident reports, schedules, et cetera. Establishing standard operating procedures, clearly outlining the information, and making it accessible helps employees understand what is expected of them and provide the necessary tools for success. Supervisors can set up alerts regarding task execution and productivity.
But training isn’t static. It is an ongoing process. Encouraging and rewarding continued curiosity, lifelong learning, and a practice-makes-perfect approach can help raise the bar across the organization, with high standards for staff performance being the company standard. Several site managers at Driven were initially hired as a CSA or supervisors and worked up.
Like many car washes, Driven experiences its share of seasonal workers, often a result of school resuming after the summer months. Drawing on inspiration from that high school internship program, Driven developed its own Internal Rotation Program designed to showcase the larger career opportunities within its company that staff may have never considered as long-term career possibilities. Staff members can apply for or be nominated to a six-month-long development program in Sales and Marketing, Accounting and Finance, or Real Estate Development where they shadow a senior staff member once a week and are invited to sit in on weekly leadership meetings to gain exposure and valuable experience to the inner workings of other areas of the business. Additionally, the team is looking to bring on a summer engineering intern to work on “the prefect blower configuration” as a project.
As the boots on the ground, Driven asks for suggestions and tips for marketing, sales, operations, you name it, from staff. To encourage honest feedback and provide teams with additional growth and support measures, they also offer an anonymous employee satisfaction form to better understand how the leadership team is doing from the employee’s point of view.
Feeling seen, valued, and productive at work can make a huge impact on the company culture buy-in, desire to pursue advancement within the organization, and the relationship employees have with their workplace. A leadership team that practices curiosity and authentically models respectful communication in efforts to continually improve builds trust and strengthens the relationship an employee feels with their company and, thus, their likelihood to stay. And in my opinion, that is the most important part and how we will continue to attract new talent to the space and build up future leaders from within.
Lanese Barnett is senior vice president of business development at Amplify Car Wash Advisors, the number one advisor of car wash chains nationwide. With a mission of creating wealth for clients, Amplify helps car wash owners sell, partner, or grow using practical experience as operators coupled with expertise in mergers and acquisitions and capital advisory services. Keep up to date on the latest car wash M&A activity with Car Wash M&A, The Podcast Lanese hosts monthly and sign up for Car Wash M&A, The Newsletter at AmplifyWash.com. You can reach Lanese at [email protected]
See the article in the Northeast Carwasher, Summer 2023 issue.